With a second film adaptation of The Phantom Tollbooth in the works (author Norton Juster famously hated the first), now is the perfect time to expose yet another generation of kids to the brilliant tale of Milo’s journey in into the world of the doldrums and beyond. If you’re someone who prefers audiobooks — or has kids who love them — there’s a brand new version narrated by Rainn Wilson.
As a lover of both The Phantom Tollbooth and The Office, I had admittedly high expectations for the brand new audiobook of Norton Juster’s timeless classic, narrated by Wilson. This is a book I’ve read every decade since I was ten, a book I sincerely can’t wait to read with my son. It was my first exposure to absurdist comedy, word-play, and, because I grew up in the southwest, the concept of toll-booths. And I’ve yet to meet or even hear of another person who doesn’t share my enthusiasm, including, apparently, Rainn Wilson.
While I think that Rainn Wilson’s brand of ridiculousness pairs beautifully with Juster’s prose, shockingly, he is not the first noted sitcom actor to narrate the beloved classic. For those who prefer Fraiser to The Office, there was a 2009 audiobook narrated by David Hyde Pierce. As of this writing, there’s no word if Jim Parsons is planning on an audiobook version of The Phantom Tollbooth in 2029.
I’m usually quite cautious when it comes to new incarnations of my childhood reliques, after all, “Everybody is so terribly sensitive about the things they know best.” But as far as I’m concerned, this is an easy one. Consistently rated among the best children’s literature of all time, it would be hard to mess this up.
Even without the benefit of Jules Feiffer’s iconic illustrations, the audio version of The Phantom Tollbooth will provide fresh inspiration for kids and parents through the final slog of the school year. It could also be a great summer road trip companion. Or, in Juster’s words, this release is the perfect opportunity to take a break from the news and “…continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.”
The new audio version of The Phantom Tollbooth, as narrated by Rainn Wilson is available here.